Upton Sinclair: The Profits of Religion

Book Two - The Church of Good Society

Anglicanism and Alcohol

This partnership of Bishops and Beer is painfully familiar to British radicals; they see it at work in every election - the publican confusing the voters with spirits, while the parson confuses them with spirituality. There are two powerful societies in England employing this deadly combination - the "Anti- Socialist Union" and the "Liberty and Property Defense League." If you scan the list of the organizers, directors and subsidizers of these satanic institutions, you find Tory politicians and landlords, prominent members of the higher clergy, and large- scale dealers in drunkenness. I attended in London a meeting called by the "Liberty and Property Defense League," to listen to a denunciation of Socialism by W.H. Mallock, a master sophist of Roman Catholicism; upon the platform were a bishop and half a dozen members of the Anglican clergy, together with the secretary of the Federated Brewers' Association, the Secretary of the Wine, Spirit, and Beer Trade Association, and three or four other alcoholic magnates.

In every public library in England and many in America you will find an assortment of pamphlets published by these organizations, and scholarly volumes endorsed by them, in which the stock misrepresentations of Socialism are perpetuated. Some of these writings are brutal - setting forth the ethics of exploitation in the manner of the Rev. Thomas Malthus, the English clergyman who supplied for capitalist depredation a basis in pretended natural science. Said this shepherd of Jesus:

A man who is born into a world already possessed, if he cannot get subsistence from his parents, and if society does not want his labor, has no claim of right to the smallest portion of food, and in fact has no business to be where he is. At Nature's mighty feast there is no cover for him. She tells him to be gone, and will quickly execute her own orders.

Such was the tone of the ruling classes in the 19th century; but it was found that for some reason this failed to stop the growth of Socialism, and so in our time the clerical defenders of Privilege have grown subtle and insinuating. They inform us now that they have a deep sympathy with our fundamental purposes; they burn with pity for the poor, and they would really and truly wish happiness to everyone, not merely in Heaven, but right here and now. However, there are so many complications - and so they proceed to set out all the anti-Socialist bug-a-boos. Here for example, is the Rev. James Stalker, D.D., expounding "The Ethics of Jesus," and admonishing us extremists:

Efforts to transfer money and property from one set of hands to another may be inspired by the same passions as have blinded the present holders to their own highest good, and may be accompanied with injustice as extreme as has been manifested by the rich and powerful.

And again, the Rev. W. Sanday, D.D., an especially popular clerical author, gives us this sublime utterance of religion on wage-slavery:

The world is full of mysteries, but some clear lines run through them, of which this is one. Where God has been so patient, it is not for us to be impatient.

And again, Professor Robert Flint, of Edinburgh University, a clergyman, author of a big book attacking Socialism, and bringing us back to the faith of our fathers:

The great bulk of human misery is due, not to social arrangements, but to personal vices.

I study Professor Flint's volume in the effort to find just what, if anything, he would have the church do about the evils of our time. I find him praising the sermons of Dr. Westcott, Bishop of Durham, as being the proper sort for clergymen to preach. Bishop Westcott, whether he is talking to a high society congregation, or to one of workingmen, shows "an exquisite sense of knowing always where to stop." So I consulted the Bishop's volume, "The Social Aspects of Christianity" and I see at once why he is popular with the anti-Socialist propagandists - neither I nor any other man can possibly discover what he really means, or what he really wants done.

I was fascinated by this Westcott problem; I thought maybe if I kept on the good Bishop's tail, I might in the end find something a plain man could understand; so I got the beautiful two-volume "Life of Brooke Westcott, by his Son". - and there I found an exposition of the social purposes of bishops! In the year 1892 there was a strike in Durham, which is in the coal country; the employers tried to make a cut in wages, and some 10,000 men walked out, and there was a long and bitter struggle, which wrung the episcopal heart. There was much consultation and correspondence on episcopal stationery, and at last the masters and men were got together, with the Bishop as arbitrator, and the dispute was triumphantly settled - how do you suppose? On the basis of a 10 percent reduction in wages!

I know nothing quainter in the history of English graft than the naivete with which the Bishop's biographer and son tells the story of this episcopal venture into reality. The prelate came out from the conference "all smiles, and well satisfied with the result of his day's work." As for his followers, they were in ecstasies; they "seized and waltzed one another around on the carriage drive as madly as ever we danced at a flower show ball. Hats and caps are thrown into the air, and we cheer ourselves hoarse." The Bishop proceeds to his palace, and sends one more communication on episcopal stationery - an order to all his clergy to "offer their humble and hearty thanks to God for our happy deliverance from the strike by which the diocese has been long afflicted." Strange to say, there were a few varlets in Durham who did not appreciate the services of the bold Bishop, and one of them wrote and circulated some abusive verses, in which he made reference to the Bishop's comfortable way of life. The biographer then explains that the Bishop was so tender- hearted that he suffered for the horses who drew his episcopal coach, and so ascetic that he would have lived on tea and toast if he had been permitted to. A curious condition in English society, where the Bishop would have lived on tea and toast, but was not permitted to; while the working people, who didn't want to live on tea and toast, were compelled to!

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